I never was much of a fan of The Beach Boys and their music. Besides it just not appealing to me, my environment dictated that I despise them.
I grew up in Cicero, Illinois, a town that was run by The Mob. Al Capone had a home in Cicero. Cicero housed two race tracks. It was a tough guy town. We didn’t cotton to bleached blonde boys in shorts and wide-striped shirts singing about surfing.
The only water near us was the canal by the Sanitary District. You could walk across that body of semi-liquid. No sir, no “hanging ten” around there. Their interest in hot cars was okay but those Beach Boys did not fit into the typical Cicero culture.
That said, I happened to recently watch Love & Mercy, the movie about The Beach Boys’ musical leader, Brian Wilson. It starred Chicago’s own John Cusack and some other people. It’s a damn good movie.
After watching it, I gained a new appreciation of their music. I still don’t care all that much for it but I now appreciate to a greater degree what went into it. What a tortured soul and musical genius Brian Wilson was, and perhaps still is. I understand he’s back to performing.
Besides all kinds of musical sounds and melodies that he would hear in his head, apparently, he also heard voices. Now, I pose this question…is hearing voices in your head that unusual?
I suppose it depends upon the degree and what they are saying, or telling you, but don’t we all hear some sort of voice inside ourselves? Some call it a “conscience”, a voice that tries to tell us right from wrong. Some may call it the whispering of a muse.
Of course, some people have different kinds of voices. Those poor folks need medication or therapy to quiet the cacophony or intensity of their voices, especially if they are telling the individual to perform unspeakable acts upon themselves or others.
But, those other kinds of voices can be useful. Some decades back, I drew a comic strip based upon what my voices were saying. I was mostly recording the little arguments and conversations they were having and then illustrating them via a pair of characters. As the characters began developing more distinct personalities the strip eventually declined to a series of setups and punchlines so I abandoned it.
Apparently, the voices had had their say during that period of my life and that was the end of that.
Now, I don’t think I was, or am, crazy (although I’ve had my doubts at time). Instead of being pestered or driven to distraction, I took advantage of the conversations going on in my head and did something less unspeakable with them. I drew a comic strip. (I did say, less unspeakable.)
A’course, I was lucky enough to be able to do that. Not everyone can. For some folks, those voices can take over and ruin their lives.
But, don’t many artists, be they musicians, writers (especially writers, I would think), painters, sculptors, actors or cartoonists as well as athletes or just about anyone in any kind of profession find themselves propelled , cajoled and inspired by a little voice of some kind?
Or am I just talking out of my head?
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Leg Gloom…
On Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I was sitting in the waiting room of a walk-in patient care clinic
I was there because I’d had a mysterious and debilitating pain in my right calf for the past five days. It hurt worse than the concept of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin in the White House. Well, almost worse. It hurt pretty damn badly, though, and enough to affect my ambulatory ability.
A couple of days earlier I decided to try “working it out” by walking to the mailbox that was situated a block and a half away from where I live. By the time I got to the box I hugged it like a long lost friend just so I could have something to hang onto. The pain in my calf was intense. It was exploding with every step I took.
Looking back at the block and a half I’d have to cover in order to return home seemed insurmountable. I was in so much discomfort I even toyed with the idea of hailing a car down and asking if they’d give me a ride to the end of the block. But, manly man that I am, I persevered. With the aid of a cyclone fence to rest upon half way back I triumphantly hobbled home.
I was stymied (and without a derby). This situation was a new one on me.
Even though I was not a candidate for a blood clot, my wife insisted I call my doctor so I could have an ultrasound just to rule it out. Or, if it was a clot, to medically deal with it. It being Labor Day weekend, my doc, of course, was unattainable.
A nurse named Jeremy called me back and directed me to a walk-in clinic, assuring me that they had the equipment available to do any tests that were needed. Since this place was right near where I live, I readily bit. When I finally got in to see the NP, after a 90 minute wait, she assured me they did not have any equipment like that and I should go to an ER, as I should have done in the first place.
If I ever get my hands on that Jeremy…
So, my wife dropped me off at the door to the ER at Illinois Masonic Hospital and left so she could get ensnared in Cubs traffic. One quickly learns that things move exasperatingly slow in the hospital. I was moved from the waiting room to a waiting gurney. Eventually I was gurneyed down to radiology where I was given an ultrasound test, gurneyed back to my waiting spot in the ER and waited some more.
People working in hospitals are very good at walking by without making eye contact. I suppose they have to. I can’t complain about how I was treated because it was fine. The staff was as helpful and friendly as they could be but, after all, it was an ER and it was Labor Day weekend.
Long story somewhat short, the ultrasound showed no blood clot. That was good news but no one had any answer or guess to why I would suddenly be stricken with this pain in my calf that was making me hobble about like an understudy to Walter Brennan. They were ready to release me and send me on my way when my wife, who had recently returned, spoke up and asked whether they could prescribe anything, like a muscle relaxant.
So, I received a prescription of Naproxen and a type of Valium. I don’t know anything about prescription drugs. The only drugs I’m familiar with are the illegal variety so before I took the Valium that night, I first drank half a bottle of wine—just to calm me down, y’know.
After all, I had just spent 5 ½ hours involved with waiting around in various medical facilities. I deserved whatever buzz I could muster.
Current medical update: A week later, my condition has changed. I am now addicted to pain pills and drink even more excessively than before but, at least, my calf no longer hurts. At least, I don’t think it does.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last’ post for The Third City was Car Talk…
After years of lackluster baseball—with the exception of one glorious World Series run in 2005—there is a recurring emotional cycle to the season for White Sox fans.
March is a time for baseless optimism, reflected in statements like, “Newly acquired Adam LaRoche is gonna belt 30 homers in a hitters’ park like the Cell!”
With April comes cognitive dissonance. The ballclub you believed to be a dandy is stinking up the joint. “Any team can have a putrid April,” you contend. “A lotta games left.”
In May, reality sets in, and so does mild depression. “You have to stop watching Sox games on the couch in your underwear while eating gallons of ice cream,” you’re told by a significant other.
Utter confusion occurs in the next month, which you guess is June but you’re not sure because, watching the White Sox, you feel disconnected from time and space. “What the hell are the Sox doing out there?” you ask, baffled, and try to determine if the crap you’re witnessing can even be classified as baseball, until…
July, and false hope! The club sweeps a couple of series in a row and threatens to become relevant. “Hey, a win streak!” you exclaim. “The Sox are a few games back of some teams a few games back from a playoff spot. We can do this!”
August is a dark time, characterized by senseless rage. You realize you’ve been suckered into investing emotionally in a bad White Sox team once again. And you’re pissed. “Die, you White Sox!” you shout, while stabbing your Paul Konerko bobblehead with a dull kitchen knife.
We’re now well into September, the month of indifference. You’ve accepted your fate as a fan of a hapless, hopeless team and no longer care. This is liberating.
Nightly, three-hour White Sox games are no longer a priority in your life. You watch only because it’s baseball, and winter is coming.
You write a blog post with the game on in the background, and pause only to watch Jose Abreu at-bats.
Cubs fans once knew September indifference. But they’ve hit the big time now.
They’re used to jockeying for draft position among the league’s worst teams. Now they’re jockeying for playoff position, up there with MLB’s elite.
It’s Adam LaRoche’s fault…
There was no build up to this for Cubs fans. Last year, the Cubs were baseball refuse. Suddenly, they’re the cream of the crop.
And so Cubs fans are like jackpot winners who don’t know what to do with themselves. They’re in a collective state of shock, really.
I was at a Cubs fan friend of mine’s place, watching Jake Arrieta finish a no-hitter to put the Cubs 19 games over .500. He urinated himself while sitting inaudible with a stupid grin on his face.
Cubs fan brains just don’t have the capacity to process what’s going on right now.
But when playoff baseball becomes the norm on the North Side, and Cubs fan brains accept it, will they remember their old Sox fan pals? Or will they be too big for us?
When Cubs fans are respected by Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Dodgers fans, will they admit they know us? That we’re neighbors and we ride the Red Line together?
Or will they laugh and throw stones at us when other fans are around?
Either way, adieu Cubs fans! Sorry to see you go.
For the longest time, the Cubs were lovable losers and the Sox were just losers. As fanbases we had our differences, sure, but we shared loserdom.
Now Sox fans are alone in our plight. This divergence of fan experiences will disturb the balance of things in Chicago. And will add an element of loneliness to loserdom.
That will be upsetting to me, at a later date.
Because now it’s September.
And who cares?
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was Anthony Rizzo…
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I knew someone who tied little bells on the ends of the tie rods in his car. This is true. Apparently, whenever he turned a corner, he wanted an angel to get its wings. I don’t know if that’s true but if it were it would be kind of nice but mostly rather sad.
I had my tie rods fall apart once. Fortunately, I wasn’t going very fast as the traffic light had just changed. Double fortunately, as I crossed the intersection I was right in front of a gas station when it happened.
I didn’t need no stinking bells. But I do have more car stories.
I was in the back seat of a carload of friends driving down the highway back home from a camping trip in Canada when I saw our right rear tire go bounding off onto the grassy knoll bordering the shoulder. Fortuitously, our driver was slowing down as we were approaching a construction sight so no great damage occurred. Upon inspection, we found that the lug nuts were shorn off.
Another time, I was driving downstate with a friend and we noticed a bumping sound coming from the rear of the car. At first we thought it was due to rough pavement but it kept up and kept getting bumpier and louder. The rear of the car began shaking. We pulled off the highway and found a service station. The guy working there put it up on the lift, reached up and pulled the rear tire straight off. Deja fucking Vu.
“Hey!” he proclaimed, “Your lug nuts got sheared right off. You guys coulda died. Hyuk yuk yuk!”
Since I was involved in both of these rather odd transportational occurrences, I now wonder as I look back, could these two incidents have been because of me? Was I the Joe Btfsplk of automobiles?
During one six month stretch in the 1970s, I was in five accidents. None were my fault. While stopped at stop lights and stop signs, someone would simply plow into the rear of my car. It even happened once on the way back from the body shop. I got rear-ended more often than a prison newbie.
What my car’s rear end needed was some silicone implants. Bounce those bastards right off.
I had always thought these posterior impacts were the fault of my vehicle, a 1973 Mazda 808. It either had some sort of magnetic plate built into the rear bumper or else it was invisible, like Wonder Woman’s airplane, to certain drivers, usually drivers of large cars. But, now I wonder.
Was it me?
I was in a horrible accident on the way up to Wisconsin once. The driver in front of me abruptly slowed down to make an illegal U-turn in the middle of a sudden white-out so I had to quickly apply the brakes, causing me to spin about on the ice like one of those Roombas gone haywire. I got T-boned by a semi and ended up in a snowdrift on the side of the road below a billboard for Norb’s Auto Repair.
Miraculously, no one got hurt (very badly) and Norb repaired my car and I’m still driving it today, nineteen years later but…how long can my good luck within bad luck hold out?
I feel like I’m the offspring of Joe Btfsplk and Gladstone Gander, a union that is illegal in most states but perhaps it doesn’t apply to cartoon characters.
Down these mean streets I continue to roll, usually with four tires, and neither I nor my passengers have experienced anything worse than a few scares, some teeth-gritting, a slight flutter of heart palpitations and only one mild concussion.
My yin is still dominating my yang so, if anyone needs a ride, give me a call…if you dare. Bwahaha.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was A Little Dobbs Will Do Ya’…
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I was sleeping off some hard liquor after some hard luck at the sports book.
The cellphone buzzed and I knocked it off the nightstand trying to pick up.
I gathered my phone and my wits and managed a “Yah?” into the receiver.
“Q Score,” said Benny Jay, my editor at The Third City. He is, among other things, nocturnal.
“What? Benny, it’s three in the morning, take a valium or something.”
“Do you know about Q Scores?” Benny asked, unfazed.
It hurt to think. Luckily, I have a high tolerance for pain. “You mean the survey data used to measure celebrity popularity?”
“Very good, Einstein.” Benny was in a lousy mood. But then again, Benny was always in a lousy mood.
“I’m reading an article that says, according to Q Scores, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant are Chicago’s most recognizable baseball players. You know what those guys have in common?”
I played dumb. “They’re all Scorpios?”
“Wrong. Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant are all Cubs.”
“You don’t say.”
“Don’t get cute. You know what I’m getting at.”
I knew what he was getting at.
“You write about the White Sox. No one knows the White Sox,” Benny pointed out. “Your Jorge Abreus and Alan Eatons or whoever.”
I tried to appeal to Benny’s sense of indifference. “What do you care about Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant?”
“I care about web hits kid. Mass appeal.”
Benny never edited a post he wouldn’t dumb down if he thought there were a few more page views in it. The Third City’s sleazy advertisers paid by the click.
“This is how it works. You use the names Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant over and over again, that’ll optimize our search engine placement.”
“Optimize huh?” Fancy words. He’d come a long way all right. When I first met Benny Jay, he had a dial-up modem and a dream.
And, while we’re at it, Kanye & Kim…
“What is it you want, Benny?”
“I want a post riddled with the names Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant. Use ‘em half a dozen times or more and we’ll have bumper-to-bumper web traffic.”
“And how do you expect me to write a readable post continuously invoking the names Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant?””
“I don’t know, make up one of your stories. Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant go charter fishing, the boat captain has a stammer and keeps using their names over and over. Hey not bad, eh?”
“You’re a sick man, you know that, Benny?”
“I just give the people what they want.”
“Let me think about it,” I said, hoping he’d have a memory lapse after a few hours sleep.
“I’ll put it this way, you can do this or you can find another unpaid blogger gig.”
It was a familiar refrain.
“Alright, Benny, sure, you can count on me,” I said, and tried to sound convincing.
Benny was still going on about his Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant charter boat fishing story idea, when I turned off the cellphone.
I’d played along. But if Benny Jay wanted more web traffic, he could write his own post about Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant.
A man’s gotta stand for something in this world. And I was no shill.
And as far as I knew, neither are Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant.
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was Let’s Threaten To Move The Sox…
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A week’s worth of tweets from the great Chairman Matt — @mifarmer
@ChicagoBears will retain Forrest Claypool and his aides to oversee massive cuts to union work force, reducing roster from 75 to 53 players.
Mayor Emanuel ends budget hearing, tells crowd to stop by merch table for “One Property Tax Increase, One Chicago” t-shirts. #chibudget2016
Mayor Emanuel looks to relieve overcrowded NW Side grade schools by opening two schools designed around novel “aviation noise” curriculum.
Will we be able to wager on DePaul home basketball games while visiting the new Chicago casino? #chibudget2016
As a North Side resident, should I begin buying my sugary soft drinks in nearby Evanston or drive an extra mile to Skokie? #chibudget2016
A “process” for Rahm’s decision to reopen Dyett High School? Give me a break. At CPS, a process ain’t nothin’ but a hairdo. #FightForDyett
The story’s not over, but Rahm never would have offered to revive Dyett as an open enrollment HS without the #FightForDyett hunger strikers.
One former CPS CEO was unimpressed by the Dyett hunger strikers, “They’ve survived on broths for 18 days, I lived off of SUPES for 2 years.”
Not one to let a crisis go to waste, Mayor Emanuel will promote #FightForDyett hunger strike as part of his new “Rahm’s Fasters” program.
If you’re one of those Chicagoans who enjoys sipping a Big Gulp while vaping during your Uber ride, the price of poker is about to go up.
New CPS budget includes an additional $317.6 billion in cuts to its Central Office. Since 2008, CPS has cut $27.8 trillion from that office.
Having leaked his 2016 budget to @fspielman at the @Suntimes yesterday, Emanuel today leaked info that his budget will eventually pass 45-5.
The @Suntimes fired its photographers in 2013. Let’s hope it still has some plumbers on staff. The paper gets way too many leaks from Rahm.
Editor’s Note: Matt’s last post for The Third City was Guitar Lawyer…
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Having recently read the novel,The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven, I felt the desire to visit the movie yet again.
I, as any true-blue human being should, have seen the movie several times. It never wears out its welcome of a repeated viewing.
In fact, I owe my introduction to this cinematic masterpiece to a Spanish teacher I had back in high school. “Treasure” was on TV that evening so the teacher decreed that the class watch it. There was much Spanish spoken in the film and he expected us to deliver our interpretations the next day.
Hands down, that turned out to be the best homework assignment I’ve ever had.
The book, as do all books, has a whole lot more to it than any film can exhibit but John Huston’s cinematic adaptation couldn’t be better. He gets to the gist of the story and there’s never a dull moment.
(By the way, the “We don’t got to show you no stinkin’ badges” line is delivered in much saltier language in the book.)
I hadn’t seen the movie in many years so it was quite pleasurable viewing, almost like a virgin voyage, but a virgin who’s been around the block and up the stairs. As it got to the final third of the story when Bogart’s Fred C. Dobbs character becomes more and more paranoid and unhinged, I was reminded of someone.
That someone was an old pal of mine from high school and for a few years after that. As I look back upon Mike and the times we had, I now realize that he may very well have been bi-polar. He was a wild, creative guy who was a lot of fun to be around but he also had moods that were as black as squid ink in a cinder storm.
During those moods he was the kind of guy who if you saw him coming down the street, you would cross over to the other side. He was wild, creative and fun turned upside down. But, more often than not, his good moods shone through so we paid the pendulum swings little mind.
One summer weekend he and I and two other friends went camping up in northern Wisconsin. All the camping equipment was Mike’s as well as the VW van in which he drove us. Spirits were high and so were we.
Things began to go downhill after we set up camp. We must have camped near a subdivision of wasp nests because they were everywhere. They didn’t like our intrusion into their neighborhood and they let us know it. We’d have to zip open the tent door and run full gallop out one at a time because those ornery stinging insects would descend upon us like Tom Wolfe on an adjective.
The three of us thought it’d be a good idea to move our campsite. Since Mike had chosen the site, he began to take our occasional suggestions as a personal affront and slowly began to adopt a Fred C. Dobbs persona.
He ceased speaking to us but not to himself. At daybreak he would grab his fishing gear and a jug of wine and mutteringly go off by himself, not returning until nightfall, roaring drunk. This left the three of us on our own. We couldn’t go near our campsite because of the wasps so we wandered about the woods all day.
We became very paranoid of Mike’s paranoia. We didn’t know what to expect. A sense of helplessness enveloped us as we were hundreds of miles from home and the sole means of transportation belonged to a wine-sopped guy who thought we were all against him.
How does one reason with unreasonableness?
When we did cross paths with Mike, we treaded lightly and spoke gently. Slow and smooth with no sudden movements. As the weekend, which felt much longer than that, came to a close, Mike was back to his old self. Fred C. Dobbs had left the building…er…forest.
Happily, the ending to our little story was happier than the one in “Treasure”. We traveled home together in good spirits, letting all the bad memories blow away like gold dust in the wind.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Sox Sour Grapes…
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